Saturday, March 30, 2013

JD's Review of 'Mirror Face' by Meredith Lorimar

Meredith Lorimar’s ‘Mirror Face’ is the record of a young woman’s thoughts and feelings, occurring largely over the course of a single evening.

Ursula Baker is an actress with neurotic tendencies. Her closest friends are a gay man who is dying of AIDS and a delusional, drug-abusing Lady Gaga wannabe.  Most of the novel is taken up with Ursula’s reflections on her life and the sequence of events and relationships that has brought her to her present situation.

Of itself, this would not be sufficient to hold a reader’s interest over the course of a novel. However, Ms Lorimar artfully draws the reader into the claustrophobic, obsessional mind of her protagonist. The writing is cultured, the tone nihilistic. Ursula Baker observes her own ‘mirror face’ from a dispassionate viewpoint. At times I was strongly reminded of Meursault, Camus’ central character in ‘L’Etranger’. Like him, Ursula examines the life around her and acts as a commentator on it, yet she remains emotionally disengaged. What emotions she has are fleeting and inconsequential. Hers is essentially a life of intellect, not of emotion and she remains ultimately alienated from herself, an existential creature.

‘Mirror Face’ is an unusual novel that requires perseverance; but the writing is imaginative, cleverly structured and with some memorable turns of phrase. For those readers that like their books to have lots of ‘action’ it will likely not be to their taste, but for my part I found it a compelling exercise in introspection. The author presents a fascinating study of a mind grasping for meaning yet finding only paradox and absurdity.

Ms Lorimar has an interesting and singular voice. I look forward to more of it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Steak With Seumas

Today I had the pleasure of a leisurely lunch in Dubai with the indomitable Seumas Gallacher, legendary Scottish blogger and writer of best-selling action thrillers 'The Violin Man's Legacy' and 'Vengeance Wears Black'. As well as being a phenomenal wielder of the virtual pen, Seumas is a tireless and generous supporter of fellow writers***. Mr Gallacher's wife is currently out of town, so I figured the poor beggar was probably in need of a decent meal - the ladies among you will be only too aware of what pathetic creatures we men are when left to our own devices.

For a guy from North of the Border, Seumas has a surprisingly high IQ and was able to wax lyrical on the whole social networking scene. We found we share a common philosophy: DON'T SPEND YOUR TIME ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK ETC TRYING TO SELL YOUR BOOKS; SPEND YOUR TIME INTERACTING AND MAKING FRIENDS.

Being the opinionated curmudgeons that we are, we took the opportunity over dessert to put the world to rights. I shan't bore you all with the details, but suffice to say that we will be contacting the world leaders over the next couple of weeks with instructions on how to sort things out. Provided they do as they are told, we should see an end to world poverty, all wars and a resolution to the Euro crisis by the end of April. Total nuclear disarmament should be in place by the autumn and global warming will have stopped by Christmas. This will leave us with ample time to do some writing thereafter, just as soon as we have the Nobel Prize Nomination behind us. Our next joint project will be the invention of a Time Travelling Machine which we hope to make commercially available to everyone for about the price of an iPad by this time next year. Watch this space.

Meantime, you might want to take a look at Seumas' website/blog and catch up with him on Twitter @seumasgallacher

A couple of months back I reviewed Seumas' 'Vengeance Wears Black' on this blog. You can take a look at the review by clicking HERE

***Seumas made me write this sentence, by the way. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

JD's Review of 'The Steward' by Christopher Shields

“The Steward” by Christopher Shields is the first book in the “Weald Fae Journals”, a series aimed at young adults.

Sadly, I find many of today’s fantasy writers sloppy and lazy in constructing their ‘worlds’, but Shields has clearly put a lot of thought and time into his portrayal of the shadow side of our otherwise-familiar planet. His ‘fae’ – ‘fairies’ to the uninitiated – are immortal creatures of pure energy. They can, however, take physical form, and when they do so they become endowed with powers to alter and manipulate matter and elemental forces.

The author carefully interweaves the familiar with the mystical, leading the reader by the hand so that he is by degrees drawn into an universe which would otherwise be incomprehensible.

The story is morally unambiguous (if we put to one side the infatuation of a teenage girl with a 130,000 year-old-being), so we are left in no doubt as to who are the goodies and who are the baddies. The plot-line has been carefully orchestrated and Shields steadily builds tension as the guardian-elect of the fae lands is put through a series of trials and the stakes grow higher.

The “Weald Fae Journals” series has the potential to be huge, and you may want to get on board now while it’s still in its early stages.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Derelict House (England)

The disused rake beside the wall
Sheds red leaves of autumn rust.
The lawn, once flattened, now grows wild
Hiding the spring's unfettered lust.

From this jungle arise the vines
Strangling the garden gate.
Ivy and rose assault the bricks,
Reach the windows, transmigrate.

The musty rooms ooze necrosis;
Cracks prise apart the crumbling walls.
The wood-beams creak: a rivulet
Runs into the entrance hall.

Imprisoned flies buzz round the panes.
Their dead ancestors heap the floor.
A creeper skirts the gravel path
And circumnavigates the door.

In the weeds a fountain-Cupid
Stands, choked to the draining-grate.
Stifled are the blind boy's tears
For summers gone. Alas, too late.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Another Day, Another Leibster Award

Having spent the last couple of months ducking and weaving to avoid incoming blogger awards - you know the sort of thing, like a chain letter with menaces - I finally failed to dodge the bullet and got nominated for a second Liebster Award.

The heartless gunman responsible for this is Gary Dolman, my evil doppelganger from the North-East of England. I am actually beginning to suspect that we do not just have similar names but he is in fact a Mr Hyde to my Dr Jekyll - or vice versa, take your pick.

Anyway, here are 11 random facts about me:-

1.   I hate repetition
2.   I hate repetition
3.   I really, really hate repetition
4.   The only foreign language I speak fluently is English (my native language being 'Mackem')
5.   I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up
6.   I have recently slipped further down the pecking order in the Dolan household since we acquired a Jack Russell called 'Perseus' (I had nothing to do with the choice of name, by the way)
7.   I have visited 71 countries and every continent apart from Antarctica
8.   My inside leg is 32" on a good day
9.   Rod Stewart and I share the same birthday (although not the same year)
10. When you spell my name backwards, it sounds like something from a poor man's 'Lord of the Rings': Nalod Nohj
11.  I hate repetition

Monsieur Dolman's questions to his victims, and my answers, are set out below:-

1.  When you start a new piece of writing, do you prepare a plan first? Be honest now!
Yes. I am a complete anal retentive, and besides, the sight of a blank Word document with a flashing cursor is one of the most terrifying sights I can think of. So yes, I plan out a book in hideous detail before I even write a sentence.

2.  At what time of day or night do you write most effectively?
I never write effectively, except perhaps in my dreams.

3.   Have you ever found yourself secretly trying to use ‘The Force’? (Perhaps to open automatic doors or suchlike)
Of course. Doesn't everybody do this? And isn't it great when it works?

4.   Which Hogwarts House could you see yourself being sorted into?
I neither know nor care. Harry Potter bores me witless. Sorry, JK, but there it is.

5.   What was your favourite subject at school?
Gynaecology. Well, it would have been anyway. Instead I had to settle for English Literature.

6.    If you could spend a day as someone else, who would it be and why?
God. It should be pretty obvious why. The only trouble is, He'd have to exist before I could be Him. (Bet I don't get any hate mail for THAT!!!)

7.   Who is your favourite living actor and why?
All my really favourite actors are dead, I'm afraid.

8.   Which creature are you the most afraid of?

9.   Whom would you give this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to, and why?
Our cat, Molly. She's kinda cool and doesn't actually kill anything. I certainly wouldn't waste the prize on a human.

10. What is the first word that comes into your mind...NOW? Please write it down.
'Polyphiloprogenitive'. The second word that comes into my mind is 'pretentious', and the third word is 'bollocks'.

11. Which part of your body are you most happy with?
The usual part.

The Leibster Award demands that I now nominate other victims to go through the same torment, but being a creature of phuquerie and a closet anarchist, I shall demur. Too many of my blogger buddies have suffered from this particular 'honour' in recent months - so I shall just keep my fingers crossed that the Deity of Random Punishments doesn't smite me down or something. We get more than our fair share of smiting, we do. We few, we happy few, we band of bloggers.